herald

Thursday 14 December 2017

Tanaiste dampens hopes over future child benefit hikes

Joan Burton
Joan Burton

Tanaiste Joan Burton has warned that she cannot guarantee a further hike in child benefit in 2016.

The Labour Party leader yesterday expressed caution over whether such a measure can be delivered for families in light of continuing difficulties in the Eurozone.

The Government was praised by social groups after increasing child benefit by €5 in the recent Budget.

It was stated last month that a second hike will be introduced in 2016, if the current economic growth continues.

But Ms Burton yesterday voiced caution about whether this second hike will come into force.

While insisting that she is "confident" the pledge can be honoured, the Dublin West TD said she "cannot commit to or make very significant promises".

Ms Burton engaged in angry exchanges with Fianna Fail's Social Protection spokesperson Willie O'Dea after he called on her to apologise for some of the promises broken by the Coalition since coming into office.

Speaking at an Oireachtas committee hearing, Ms Burton angrily accused Mr O'Dea of breaking the economy.

Separately, Ms Burton yesterday signalled that the Labour Party is preparing for the prospect of a general election next year.

election

While insisting that she expects the Coalition to last its full five-year term, Ms Burton confirmed that her party is entering election mode.

She told reporters at an event in Dublin that she has been visiting constituencies across the country, as well as in Dublin, to prepare the party for the polls.

Responding to reports that the Opposition is anticipating an election in 2015, Ms Burton said her party too is getting ready.

"Since I became leader of the Labour Party, I've been involved in working with the party at all levels," Ms Burton said.

"I have been visiting constituencies right around the country and in the Dublin area.

"I've been visiting a number of constituencies each month since I became leader in July. So yes, the Labour Party is getting ready for a general election," she added.

But Ms Burton said she personally anticipates the Coalition to fulfil its term - meaning that the Government would be dissolved in early 2016.

She says the Government has a "social recovery to implement", adding that next year's budget will continue to assist families.

noconnor@herald.ie

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